The completion of the work by the National Park Service (NPS) on the Carter G. Woodson Home National Historic Site this year will mark a milestone in the nation’s appreciation of Dr. Woodson’s work as the Father of Black History—the documentation of his life in Shaw.
Dr. Woodson’s life revolved around a tight circle in the Shaw community. Since his home office did not have a working kitchen, he walked over to the Phyllis Wheatley YWCA cafeteria for many of his meals, frequently conversing with the residents there after dinner. Shaw resident Gloria Anderson remembered him as “the Book Man,” regularly carrying piles of books and passing out candy to neighborhood kids. Dr. Woodson noted that “Shaw Junior High School, about two blocks from the national office in Washington, raises more money for the cause than any other school in the world.” His funeral was held at Shiloh Baptist Church, which is on the same block as his house.
Dr. Woodson’s house was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1976. At the turn of the century, neighbors noticed that the Woodson home, now vacant, was falling into ruin. The structure had broken windows, and squatters were living there, using Sterno cans for heat and cooking. After enough media attention, there was an effort to preserve the Woodson home, with Congress voting in 2003 to establish the Carter G. Woodson Home National Historic Site.
There were other efforts to commemorate Dr. Woodson’s work. A triangle park near the home was designated Carter G. Woodson Park in 2001, with plans made to install new landscaping, paving and a statue to honor Dr. Woodson. Internationally known sculptor Ray Kaskey, famed for works such as Portlandia in Oregon and the lions gracing the National Law Enforcement Memorial, was commissioned to create a statute of Dr. Woodson. In 2015, the Woodson monument and restored park were officially dedicated.
The NPS effort to open the Woodson National Historic Site to the public also began in earnest in 2015. The plan for restoration had three phases, with the third and final phase now scheduled to be completed in the fall of 2023. The site will include the original Woodson home, plus two adjoining row houses. A full exhibition outlining Dr. Woodson’s work and the accolades he received during his life will be a highlight for visitors. Dr. Woodson’s office will be reconstructed and renovated to serve as a major focus of the historic home. The completed site will also have space for NPS to manage the site, as well as serving as the headquarters of the organization Dr. Woodson formed, now known as the Association for the Study of African American Life and History. The NPS will also sponsor tours, including a February 2023 walking tour with a Woodson reenactor, Darius Wallace, and a Shaw historian, Alexander Padro, describing the environment in which Dr. Woodson lived and worked.
You can read more about Dr. Woodson, his life and his legacy here.